Years ago, I used to attend the LDS Booksellers Association convention pretty regularly, and from one year to the next there would be signs of the same consolidation that was happening in the wider book market: book sales were declining, independent stores were closing, and print runs were shrinking.
But one thing set the Mormon book market apart from the others I used to write about for Publishers Weekly. It had a monopoly. In the Mormon market, indie stores weren’t just closing; they were getting co-opted as Deseret Book stores.
Deseret wasn’t just the major retailer for the Mormon market; it was also the largest publisher by far, gobbling up once-successful competitors like Bookcraft and Covenant Communications. Just as the number of independent stores declined as Deseret stores increased, a number of indie LDS publishers sold out or went under.
All this is by way of saying that I am always very, very glad when I hear of new Mormon publishing companies. As much as I respect Deseret Book for its business savvy and especially its recent commitment to publishing books that push the edge of the Mormon envelope (see here and here and here), a lack of healthy competition in any book market means fewer options for authors and readers.
So, yay! A new Mormon publishing company has come to town!
That means authors get to keep a higher portion of their royalties, which should be music to the ears of starving artists.
The press’s first book is by Steve Peck, one of my favorite Mormon writers and a biology professor at BYU. Science the Key to Theology explores the relationship between science and religion and is out now (check it out here).
And next month it will release a memoir by Tracy McKay, who blogs beautifully at BCC and at Dandelion Mama. (Last year, I got to interview Tracy about her co-edited collection A Book of Mormons).
According to co-founder Steve Evans, part of the impetus for the press is to raise the level of conversation among Mormons.
“This all got going because we want to do a better job of having long-form discussion in our church about the big issues of our day,” he explains. “We started blogging fifteen years ago and discussions are just getting worse. By that I mean we’re becoming more and more abbreviated in how we talk with each other. We jump to conclusions about each other. We argue from our preconceived notions instead of really trying to achieve mutual understanding of various points of view.”
He also hopes that the longer format of a book, as opposed to a brief blog post or status update, can enable writers and readers to go deeper. “When crafting a longer argument you need to engage the opposing viewpoints. We want to cast a wide net and welcome conservative and progressive viewpoints,” he says.
They’re pretty open about publishing in many genres (history, poetry, fiction, memoir) and hope to put out four books a year to start with.
“We’re really trying to speak to the big, pressing issues in Mormonism,” says Evans. “We want to reach people who feel like they don’t have a place.”
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